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The Murder of Oscar Grant

The Murder of Oscar Grant

2021
16979px x 6000px | 56.5" x 20”
Digital file

Bruh, you shot me! I got a four-year-old daughter.

A reconstruction of the murder of Oscar Grant III in the early hours of New Years Day 2009 by BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale station in Oakland, California. Grant who was 22, was returning home from celebrations with several friends when a fight broke out on the train. BART officers were called to the scene by the train operator and officer Tony Pirone, proceeded to aggressively pull Grant and his five friends from the train and force them against the platform's wall. Although the youths complied with police, Grant was pinned to the ground face down by Pirone with a knee to his neck while Mehserle, struggling to handcuff him, withdrew his service pistol and discharged it once into Oscar Grant's back. The bullet richocheted off the floor puncturing Grant's lung. In critical condition, Grant was handcuffed and taken by ambulance to Highland Hospital in Oakland where he died seven hours later.

A senior police officer told investigators that Mehserle had said several times that he thought Grant had a gun, but with the emergence of the witnesses' videos, Mehserle resigned from the police force and refused to provide a statement and was arrested on January 13 in Zephyr Cove, Nevada. He posted bail set at 3 million dollars on January 30.

In the videos, Mehserle is seen raising his hands to his face after the shooting and Carlos Reyes who was sitting right next to Grant recalled Mehserle saying, "Oh shit, I shot him". At his trial, Mehserle claimed he mistook his pistol for his taser which was holstered on the opposide side to his gun. A photo from Grant's phone shows Mehserle pointing a taser at him prior to the shooting. The jury accepted Mehserle's defence and found him guilty of the lessor crime of manslaughter for which he was sentenced to two years and released after serving 11 months. Pirone was fired but never charged.

The image is made from approximately 200 film stills from cell phone videos recorded by Tommy Cross, Margarita Carazo, Daniel Lui and Karina Vargas. It was the first instance of a cell phone video of a police murder going viral and it provided key evidence for the involuntary manslaughter charge for Mehserle, as well as the firing of officers Pirone and Marysol Domenici and subsequent retirements of the Police Chief and two commanders for their handling of the case. In 2020 after the killing of George Floyd, demands for justice from the public and the Grant family resulted in the District Attorney, Nancy O'Malley, re-opening the case to consider charges against Tony Pirone, however, no charges were ever laid.

Oscar Grant and his daughter TatianaGrant's best friends, Kris Raffety and Johntue Caldwell, both of whom were present at his murder, were later shot and murdered in separate unsolved incidents and the three are buried beside one another. Oscar Grant's life mattered. BLM.